The summer before your teen heads off to college is full of checklists. However, if your child has environmental allergies, asthma, and/or a food allergy, there are important items that should be on the list. For some young adults, this may be the first time they will be away from home for an extended period. Newfound freedoms also equal new responsibilities, especially when it comes to managing one’s health. Now is the time to prepare for a successful, and safe, transition to college life.
Here is a checklist to help with the preparation:
1. Plan a visit to your child’s allergist now.
At your appointment, discuss symptom control for nasal allergies and asthma. Your allergist will adjust treatment plans if needed.
- Make sure asthma and anaphylaxis action plans are updated and available to your child.
- This also may be a good time to have your son or daughter re-tested for their food allergies. Some children may outgrow their allergy to certain foods, and it is essential for proper management to have updated testing.
- Check expiration dates on epinephrine auto-injectors and refill any medications.
- If your child’s treatment plan includes allergy immunotherapy, speak with your AA&A office about options for continuing your allergy shots while at college. Your vials may be transferred to another medical provider in the area who can administer the injections.
2. Identify healthcare facilities and pharmacies in the area.
Identify campus health facilities and make sure your child knows how to access care. Many schools will go over what services are offered during orientations. If the facilities accept insurance, make sure they have their health insurance card. Having a list of all medications can be helpful as well. Identify a local pharmacy in the event a prescription needs to be filled.
3. Review school and residence policies for managing allergic diseases and asthma.
Many families evaluate colleges based on their accommodations, especially for a child with a food allergy. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) offers a list of questions you may want to ask Disability Services, Dining Services, and Housing Services as you make your decisions.
Once your child is away at school, they must take charge of communicating their needs. Help them practice informing roommates, faculty, restaurants, and food service personnel. Some residence halls have shared kitchens, so you should ask about cleaning procedures and discuss how to limit cross-contamination. When eating out, some students like to use ‘chef cards’ for communicating their allergen needs.
Consider touring your school’s food facilities and ask questions before students arrive. Reassure your teen that food allergies are not uncommon, and most schools have policies and programs in place to support their students with a food allergy.
Most importantly, if your child is at risk for a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, continue to stress the importance of always having immediate access to an epinephrine auto-injector.
With proper preparation, most accommodations can be met for students with allergic diseases and asthma, allowing for a safe and enjoyable college experience!
Your Atlanta Allergy & Asthma physicians and staff are here to help you prepare for the next chapter in your child’s life. Please let us know how we can help. Schedule an Appointment.
Additional resources:FARE’s Preparing for College Resource Guide
Allergic Living’s Resource – College with Food Allergies, Lessons Learned